Editor-in-chief and nonprofit founder: Sanah Jivani does it all

Sanah Jivani is a pretty ambitious senior. Not only is she editor-in-chief of The Legacy Press at Klein Collins High School in Texas, but she’s also the founder of a nonprofit organization and the creator of her very own international holiday. Recently, we had a chance to speak with Jivani about her organization, her goals, and how being part of a newspaper has impacted her life.

Jivani was diagnosed with alopecia–an autoimmune disorder that causes hair loss–at three years old. By middle school, she had lost almost all of her hair, and began wearing wigs to hide her condition. Her classmates bullied her, and her self-esteem hit rock bottom.

But then, one day, Jivani looked in the mirror and saw something else. “Instead of noticing that I was bald, I noticed my beautiful brown eyes…I noticed the beauty I carried just by being me,” she said.

So Jivani stopped wearing a wig and started loving her natural self, bald head and all. She created International Natural Day in hopes of helping others embrace their inner (and outer) beauty. On Natural Day, which falls on February 13th, “you allow yourself to be your own definition of beautiful,” she said.

The once-shy Jivani now speaks at schools and other organizations, telling her story and encouraging others to join her movement. She credits her four years at The Legacy Press with helping her overcome her fear of public speaking. And, she says, it was all a big accident.

“I got stuck in a journalism class I didn’t want to take,” Jivani said. She was a freshman in high school, and none of her friends were in the class. However, she slowly made new friends, and realized she loved writing. Journalism, she said, “taught me the power of storytelling… it taught me how to tell my own story as well as other people’s.”

Jivani also believes that being editor-in-chief has taught her how use social media as a tool to spread awareness. “Social media is basically my best friend,” she said. To get the word out, she uses the hashtag #naturalday, and tweets at celebrities in hopes that they’ll retweet her to their audiences. They often do.

Ultimately, “being editor-in-chief taught me how to be a leader,” Jivani said. International Natural Day has inspired chapters and events in 28 countries so far, and it’s quickly growing thanks to her leadership. To find out more about the movement or about Jivani, check out the International Natural Day website.

Fresh Powder: The Columbia Journalism Experiment, First Amendment Awards, and the answer to short attention spans

A weekly summary of journalistic tidbits

The Experiment:
14 students from the Columbia Journalism School created a collaborative site that takes a look at the most successful and prominent experimental journalism of today. Why? So they’re better prepared for the industry when they graduate, so they learn to adapt to new-age journalism; to share their experiences with the rest of the journalism-hopefuls out there. Regardless of their intent, it’s worthwhile project to spend some time investigating.

In fact, here’s a little preview— one article published to the Experiment’s site addresses how journalism schools are adapting to the new age of digital journalism. The article weighs in on the topic from a J-school perspective, backing the issue with a variety of different opinions from reputable sources. If you’re still wondering how journalism education is adapting to a digitized medium, this is worth your time.

Fighting for that First Amendment:
There’s still some time to nominate your brave student for the SPLC’s Freedom Awards! All you have to do is submit a written description on how your student has continued to (lawfully) exercise their First Amendment rights in the face of resistance. The deadline for entries i June 8th, so make sure to send them in soon!

How to write well:
In remembrance of the late William Zinsser, here’s an article written by a lifelong fan, who reflects on some of his most meaningful writing advice. His manual, “On Writing Well” is an absolute must for anyone hoping to make a career out of their own writing someday.

Internet attention deficit:
Have you noticed the exceedingly short attention span most audiences seem to have these days? Would you even occasionally include yourself in that demographic? In the age of 6 second Vine videos, it’s not surprising that analytics reports are showing that readers often won’t finish a story, no matter how great the content. How do you fix this? This article lets you in on all the secrets; what devices tend to increase a reader’s attention, the type of traffic that will ensure they stay a little bit longer, and how to utilize more multimedia to gain a more thorough read-through.

Mobile last:
Concerned that your content isn’t “mobile first” enough? Apparently, you don’t need to be too worried; here’s why “mobile first” and “mobile only” platforms are actually not the most innovative or effective way to reach an audience.

These things also happened:
+ A candidate in a local UK election demanded a recount after he was told he had no votes, claiming that was impossible because he had definitely voted for himself. What a graceful, respectable way to accept a loss.

+ The series finale of Mad Men took place Sunday night; hopefully, those of you following the lives of Don Draper and Co. got a satisfying ending.

+ The president finally joins us on Twitter— how long until angry tweeters chase him off? Just ask Joss Whedon; it can happen to anyone.

The SNO Report: From the newsroom to the classroom

While SNO works with many middle schools, high schools, and colleges, we’re lucky enough to host a few elementary school papers as well. One of these is The Colonial Times, from Colonial Elementary School in Pelham, New York. We recently spoke with Rich Zahradnik, who teaches the fourth and fifth graders that comprise the Times’ staff.

Zahradnik is an accomplished journalist in his own right, having worked in the field for three decades before becoming an educator. It all began at 15, when he wrote a letter to the editor criticizing a local school board member. She called his mother to complain.

“I realized I could write things that would have an impact,” he said. “I was sold.”

After studying journalism in college, Zahradnik landed a job at an independently owned, local daily. He began writing business news, then national news, eventually going on to report on everything from film to finance to sports. “I was obsessed with understanding media itself,” he said.

When the paper was acquired in ‘86 by media giant Gannett, Zahradnik and two of his colleagues–who knew nothing about running a business—set out to publish their own. The Peekskill Herald was “badly undercapitalized,” he said. “Running your own paper is the hardest work. You’re responsible for the staples, tax forms, postage, everything.”

It was gratifying work, too, though. It was also something that would have been impossible just a few years prior. The brand-new Macintosh had just begun to replace expensive typesetting equipment. “This affected news producers, not consumers,” said Zahradnik. “But it lowered the barrier to entry to publishing.”

What did affect consumers, of course, was the Internet. Like many journalists and journalism educators, Zahradnik has mixed feelings about digital publishing.

“Everyone receives news at the speed only newswires once operated at. We can read pieces we would never have seen before,” he said. “[But] bloggers in basements are not the same as feet on the street—at city hall, the school board meeting, the police precinct. When everyone’s rewriting everyone else, who will be left doing original reporting?”

After the Herald, Zahradnik went on to work at some big-name outlets—CNN, AOL, Fox. He said each newsroom had a distinctly different culture. “CNN was entrepreneurial. Fox often felt like a political campaign… AOL spent its time obsessing [about] click-throughs.”

Zahradnik began teaching after he quit journalism to write novels full-time. “I wanted to give something back,” he said. He volunteered to start a newspaper club at his son’s elementary school. After discovering WordPress and SNO, he realized that a digital paper would be ideal for young writers.

“Say you assign 16 kids 16 stories for a print paper. If one story doesn’t come in, you’ve got a problem. [With a website], the readers know nothing of the missing story.” Plus, he said, his fourth-graders’ stories are often too short for a print paper, but look just fine on the web.

Zahradnik’s students do a surprising amount of work on the Colonial Times, which is now in its fourth year of production. Kids decide what to cover and who will cover it. They write full stories and headlines. They also do on-screen layout for the paper’s two print issues per year.

“The only thing they can’t do for either outlet is copyedit,” said Zahradnik, “but there are a lot of grownups that can’t do that, either.”

Zahradnik believes fourth and fifth graders have some unique qualities that make them especially great reporters. “They jump into everything with energy and enthusiasm, yet still have an intelligence about the world that’s worth hearing,” he said. “My kids make a refreshing change from the cynicism and ‘I-can’t-do-that’ of the newsrooms I’d been in for 30 years.”

For now, Zahradnik is happy to be teaching part-time. “Great teaching is great theater and takes tons of energy,” he said. When not teaching, he’s writing mystery novels. He lives with his family in Pelham, New York.

School Newspapers Online recognizes 14 student websites as SNO Distinguished Sites

The 2014-15 academic year is drawing to an end, and many student news staffs are getting ready for summer break. Journalism programs in the SNO network have something else to look forward to, too––the recognition and pride that comes with being named a SNO Distinguished Site.

Fourteen student news websites earned the title of 2015 SNO Distinguished Site after earning badges in each of six areas of distinction. These badges recognize achievement in what SNO views as the main components of a successful modern news website: story page design, writing, multimedia, continuing coverage, audience engagement, and overall excellence in website design.

The sites awarded this year’s SNO Distinguished Site award are:

SNO created the Distinguished Sites program last year, with the goal of eliminating the ambiguity of what makes a good online student news site. SNO provides detailed guidelines for each badge, and encourages schools to make improvements and reapply if at first they don’t succeed.

Jessica Wagner, journalism adviser at Owatonna High School in Owatonna, Minn., said the program brought her staff together to focus on creating quality journalism.

“The SNO Distinguished Sites program has given us a bar to measure good online journalism,” Wagner said.  “With the six different badges, this feat cannot rest on one person’s shoulders solely. It helped us think about what can we do to engage the audience more via story page and writing. We evaluated everything from site design to our social media appeal.  We critiqued stories to make them even better.”

With half of the winners being second time awardees, the program has fostered an atmosphere of continuing excellence.

“One of the goals of the program is to provide scholastic journalism programs with the goals and standards to motivate news staffs to improve their site across the board,” said Kari Koshiol, SNO Distinguished Sites Committee Chair.

“The fact that there are news programs earning this honor a second year in a row proves they are continually holding themselves to a high standard,” she said.

Overall, 128 different news publications applied for 396 badges over the past four months. A total of 178 badges were awarded to 103 different scholastic news sites.

The 2016 SNO Distinguished Sites program will be announced in late fall, and will begin accepting entries Jan. 1.

 

Polish your page with a SNO Site Review–25% off through June 30

Whether your website is a few months or a few years old, there’s always room for improvement. That’s why, for a limited time, we’re offering SNO Site Reviews for only $75 (normally $100). Order by June 30th, and you’ll receive a personalized, detailed report just in time for the new school year.

What exactly is a Site Review? It’s not a contest, and it’s not exactly a critique, either. It’s a comprehensive overview of all aspects of your website and news coverage. We’ll examine your site from a user’s perspective. We’ll snoop around in your design options and widget layout. We’ll consider things like your social media use and site analytics. We’ll check out your content–headlines, stories, videos. We’ll tell you what’s working great, what isn’t, and most importantly, why.

But we don’t stop there. Standard critiques can leave news staffs feeling overwhelmed or unsure how to proceed. A SNO Site Review always includes a list of action items–concrete, realistic steps toward improvement that you and your staff can take. We’ll help you set achievable goals and show you exactly how to reach them.

Check out what these advisers had to say about our Site Reviews:

By all means, make the investment. Commentary was supportive, corrective, and enormously helpful. Makes a difference when working with true professionals — colleagues, really — who understand all the joys and aches of working with… good journalists in the making.”  — David Bailey, Lincoln High School

“It was incredibly detailed and helpful. It almost became a checklist of what we needed to do to improve. I loved the suggestions about content and coverage, but was really appreciative of suggestions for working on the back end of the website.” — Valerie Kibler, Harrisonburg High School

Make sure to place your order before June 30th to receive the discount. The SNO Patrol lovingly handcrafts Site Reviews in the order they’re received, so your patience is appreciated! We’ll make sure you have yours in hand before the new school year begins.

The SNO Report: Resources for journo advisers

At SNO, we’re focused on making the life of a journalism educator a little easier. With that in mind, here are 8 online resources we think are worth checking out:

EditTeach.org:
Here you’ll find a collection of useful journalism teacher/adviser goodies, including headline challenges, editing resources, ways to improve content, and even a lesson on “math for journalists,” though we don’t know why anyone would be interested in that.

AP Style Quizzes:
Want to focus more exclusively on AP Style? Here is a collection of 18 AP Style Quizzes to give your students. Make sure they’re experts before you send them off into the “real world;” they’ll definitely impress their future J-School classmates at whatever Ivy League school they are sure to get into after taking these quizzes.

Verification Junkie
Here is a blog dedicated to collecting tools for all of your fact-checking needs. The site gives reviews of each product, as well where you can find it.  An invaluable resource for verification and assessment of your user-generated content, especially information gathered from social media.  Basically, an absolute must for all journo advisers everywhere.

Covering sensitive content:
Resources and guides that help your students tackle the difficult topics with grace. This has been a frequent concern in High Schools across the country, especially given varying school policies and audiences.

Make Cool Photo Spheres:
Create Photo Spheres (360-panoramas) similar to what you see on the Google Maps Street View to embed in your stories.  It may not be a feature you’re going to want to use frequently, but, when you do, it will really make those stories stand out.

Berkeley.edu:
Have you always wanted to go to Berkeley to learn more about digital journalism, but it’s not physically possible for you to be there? Now, California education comes to you; Berkely has graciously provided us with this compilation of resources, tutorials, and inspiration for digital journalists. Educate yourselves.

Using A Camera:
Here are some helpful tips on taking photos with a DLSR camera, for those staffs lacking photographers, or for the writers who want to dabble in professional-esque picture-taking.  Sometimes, that iPhone camera just doesn’t cut it.

Have you SEEN these hashtags?:
A super-easy way to search hashtags and create “Seens” (which organize the content and make it accessible to anyone you want to share it with.)  It may seem redundant, as Twitter already allows you to search through hashtags and trending topics, but this user interface is not only more aesthetically pleasing, but also a bit nicer to navigate. If your program uses Twitter regularly, this is definitely worth checking out.

Fresh Powder: AP Change-up, Robot Takeover, and the rise of student journalism

A weekly summary of journalistic tidbits

AP messes with our guidelines again:
The AP Stylebook released its annual updates at the ACES conference this year; no changes too drastic, though. A quick glance over the AP Stylebook’s Twitter pageinforms us that global warming and climate change can be used interchangeably, though climate change is more scientifically accurate. The phrase “committed suicide” is pretty much off the table unless included in a direct quote, and there are quite a few additions to the sports chapter; baseball playoffs, NCAA Tournament, figure skating, and heatstroke, just to name a few.

 

iSportswriter?:
As long as we’re on the subject of new additions in the world of sports journalism,the New Yorker raises the question, is that still a viable job option for human beings? News sources are beginning to rely on automated technology when it comes to sports coverage– using algorithms to not only collect data and scores, but to actually report on the highlights most human sportswriters would be seeking out anyway. The one thing these machines can’t do is capture the real-live human aspect of sports; which, truly, is one of the most important aspects of the industry.

Machines aren’t able to conduct post-game interviews with the players, or asking the coach a few quick questions out on the court. So, is a full-on mechanical takeover on the horizon? Probably not. But sports reporters may have a slight decrease in responsibility with the success and speed these automated machine reporters have over human beings.

 

If this isn’t the best argument for going digital, I don’t know what is:
Google, instead of taking the easy way out with a “no comment,” responded to questions about a potential new streaming plan by sending a Daily Dot reported a cute animated GIF. A rep from Google even went so far as to confirm that as their official response. No print paper is capable of that level of sass.

And, since going digital is something you are all clearly on board with, here’s a Listly compilation of 15 great storytelling tools for all of your online needs. From video production tools to cartoonist apps, you should find something in here that could work for your program– or, at the very least, give your staff a slightly more productive way to procrastinate.

Student Journalists > Professionals:
In case your students haven’t been feeling all that appreciated lately, this SPLC article should assure them their efforts do matter. Because the number of professional reporters involved in government coverage is decreasing, student journalists are becoming an important asset when it comes to reporting related news. In fact, the article states that “in four states, student journalists outnumber journalists from professional outlets assigned to the statehouse full-time, where they ensure citizens have access to information about how the state spends their tax dollars and decisions on education, criminal justice and safety regulations.” That’s more than promising, young journalists, so keep up the incredible work!

These things also happened this week:

John Stewart’s replacement was announced; Trevor Noah, a young South African comedian, is officially the successor to The Daily Show.

+ Have you ever wished you could see all of Tom Hanks’ movies in six minutes? Now you can.

+ McDonald’s is considering serving all-day breakfast.  This is life-changing information.

Eight SNO customer sites named Gold Crown winners by CSPA

On Friday, March 20, 2015, the Columbia Scholastic Press Association announced its top awards for scholastic press publications. We are pleased to announce that eight SNO customer websites were named Gold Crown winners in digital categories.

Two SNO customers were awarded Gold Crowns in the digital division:

Six SNO customers were awarded Gold Crowns in the hybrid division:

Congratulations to the advisers and staffs of these tremendous programs.  For a complete list of winners, please visit the CSPA website.

Printing your paper is easy with SNNO

Sure, online newspapers are great. You’re publishing at the speed of light, you’ve got multimedia options galore, you’re winning awards and SNO badges like nobody’s business. Plus, your website sure looks fancy. Yeah, yeah, yeah. But do you ever get nostalgic for the crinkly newsprint of yore? Do you miss the good old days of embarrassing typos and frantic print deadlines? Maybe you just want something to send your web-illiterate uncle to prove you’re doing something with your life.

SNO has a solution for you! Starting today, we’re launching SNNO–School Newspapers Not Online. With just a few clicks and a $99/month convenience charge, we can give you the best of both worlds. Not only will you continue to have a great website, but every time you publish a new story, we’ll print it out and send it to you in the mail. Using the File>Print function of our state-of-the-art computing machines, we can effortlessly immortalize your digital content on paper. What other web hosting company can claim that?

Do you publish a lot of videos? No problem — we’ll print ‘em frame-by-frame and bind them together in a beautiful, timeless flipbook. A thoughtful gift for that friend of yours who is a little too smug about not owning a television.

What about podcasts? Our podcast transcription service (currently in beta) can take care of that. Word-for-word accuracy not guaranteed, but people will get the gist, probably.

Prefer your “printing” old-school? Our SNNO Handwriting Specialist, Lauren, will be happy to painstakingly hand-write your stories. Customize with your choice of blue pen, black pen, #2 pencil, or crayon. Grammar correction and fact-checking extra.

Need your stories in print RIGHT NOW? If you’re rushing to enter a contest, or are just feeling impatient, don’t despair! Expedite your order for only $15/page, and we’ll send the printed stories to you via fax.

If you’re ready to get started with SNNO today, it’s easy–just send a tweet to @schoolnewspaper. Include the hashtag#FOOLEDYA for 10% off your first month’s subscription fee.

You’re not going to believe what these staffs did on their sites!

We’re feeling a little BuzzFeedy at the SNO office today. Blame it on this spring break list. In that spirit, check out these 12 impressive features we’ve found on sites in the recent weeks. You won’t believe what happens next!

Got something you think is worth sharing? Tweet us the link @schoolnewspaper. Maybe we’ll even pin it!
Speaking of Twitter… did your feed stop working?

We’re not pointing fingers, but Twitter made a recent change that resulted in some feeds no longer displaying on sites. Here’s the good news: there’s an easy fix.  Move your Twitter embed code from a SNO Video Embed Display widget to a SNO Text Widget. The SNO Video Embed widget resizes embed codes, and that resizing is interfering with the feed display. The SNO Text widget is super cool and we recommend it for all embeds that aren’t videos. Still need help? Send us an email.

 In case you missed it

Did you see our note this week about the 16 SNO sites named NSPA Pacemaker finalists? If you’re looking for a little more inspiration, this list of sites is a great place to start.